Do I Need an Attorney or Advocate?
Families are occasionally ready to initiate residential placement while other members on the team, such as school personnel, disagree. If parents have taken many of the other steps listed in “Steps Parents Can Take,” then hiring an advocate is a good first idea, as this is generally less expensive than hiring an attorney.
Reasons to consider hiring an advocate include:
- Parents do not feel heard at Team meetings
- Parents’ outside experts (e.g., the child’s treaters’ recommendations) are not given much weight in making decisions at Team meetings
- Consistent disagreement about the child’s needs and services
A skilled advocate understands your child’s disability, and knows local schools and programs so that parents can make a stronger case for residential placement to the child’s public school team. Good advocates are knowledgeable about special education law (but not to the degree of an attorney), and can inform parents when it is time to hire an attorney, e.g., when negotiations with the public school have stalled. The Federation has a list of people who have been trained in their Parent Advocacy Training course and are willing to accept clients at a reduced fee. (See: The Federation’s “A Parent’s Guide to Selecting a Special Education Advocate in Massachusetts” [PDF].)